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Authors: Flynn Meaney

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BOOK: Bloodthirsty
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“Let’s chalk it up to your change of environment,” the doctor said. “I hope it will be temporary. I would say avoid being in the sun for more than a half hour for the next few months. Okay?”

A half hour?

“I’ll write you a prescription for an antihistamine in the meantime,” he said. “And have the nurses come in to bandage you up. Gotta protect that skin!”

Afterward, I rode the train down to the Bronx to meet my parents at Luke’s football game, all the while looking like an escapee from a leper colony. The doctor had given me a pill that cooled off my skin and I didn’t feel as itchy anymore. But while I wasn’t quite as red anymore (more like a peach than a tomato), the nurses had given me those wraparound sunglasses only considered stylish in nursing homes.

The nurses had also wrapped my forearms in bandages, from my wrists all the way up to the hems of my t-shirt sleeves, so from the neck down, I resembled the Invisible Man. But I was not invisible, even slouched in a corner seat by the train toilet. Toddlers kept toddling by and pointing me out. Stay-at-home moms gave me sad and sympathetic glances but pulled their children away from me in case I was contagious. A man in a suit assumed I was blind and threw two dollar bills into my lap. After this incident, I removed the sunglasses.

Hey, at least no one was sitting next to me. Until the Mount Vernon East stop, when a blond girl about my age got on the train. I hate blondes. I seriously do. It’s not that I think blondes are too good for me. But
they
think they’re too good for me. Every blonde I have ever met has dismissed me immediately. From the
Playboy
blondes to the hipster blondes with short hair and glasses. Blondes always think you’re trying to hit on them.

I didn’t want to hit on this blond girl. I didn’t want to look at her. I didn’t want her anywhere near me. But she came down the row, passed three different empty seats, and then chose to sit next to me. She looked me over a little, which made me feel strange. I’m not usually the type of dude that girls cruise like an overpriced shoe.

At first, the blonde didn’t say anything. As the train lurched south toward Fordham, she had her head buried in this enormous book. But she kept sneaking glances at the Ace bandages up and down my arms, the splotches of rash on the backs of my hands, the reflection of the oily ointment on my skin. The girl asked me, “What happened to your arms?”

Mind your own business
.

“Too much sun,” I grunted. Wow, being pissed off really made me into a caveman.

“I see!” the girl said. This chick was downright jolly, despite my bandages and rash. Apparently she took great pleasure in the pains and misfortunes of others.

Then she asked, “Have you read this book?”

I looked at her. She tilted the cover of the book toward me. There was a creepy stone dungeon on it, as well as bats and a man in a cape with claws and fangs. It was called
Nocturnal Terror
.

“Nocturnal Terror?
” I said out loud. “No, I haven’t read it.”

And I don’t feel like talking
, I wanted to add.
Even about books.

“Oh, it’s amazing!” the blond girl gushed. Then she began telling me the whole story… all three hundred pages of it. She started with the ancestors of the main characters, and everything that had happened to them all their lives, and then the second generation, and everything that had happened to
those
characters, and their cousins, and their hairdresser’s brother’s neighbor’s dogs… and so on, and so forth. I can tell you the background story of all these people (and pets) in six words: they all got killed by vampires.

“And so, the great-great-granddaughter thinks that she can change the vampire,” the girl continued. She used so many hand gestures when she talked that I was scared she would smack me in the face.

“So she shows up at the castle at night. And there’s this, like, attraction, there’s this
chemistry
between them. Like a spark, you know? So they get closer and closer, and they
kiss
. They’re kissing, and she thinks he has all these human emotions. But then he goes for her neck… and he BITES her! He sucks all the blood out of her body—”

“Hmmm,” I cut her off moodily. “Yeah, that’s interesting. Maybe you shouldn’t tell me any more, though. You shouldn’t spoil the ending for me.”

“Right!” Blondie said enthusiastically. “
You
should definitely read it. I think
you’d
really like it.”

I made a noncommittal noise and turned away to look out the window.

She only gave me one minute of silence. Then Blondie leaned in close to me and whispered in my ear.

She said, “I know what you are.”

I jerked my head around and almost hit her in the face.

“What?”

“I know what you are,” Blondie repeated. To make herself clear, she gestured to my arms and my bandages. What? She knew I was allergic to the sun?

Then she pointed to my face, which was not covered in a rash. And to my creepy husky eyes. She knew what I was? What was I? She knew I was the loser in a genetic lottery? A future skin cancer patient?

“A
vampire
,”
she hissed
.

Oh, Jesus. Blondes not only hate me, but they are
crazy
.

She pointed to the cover of her book. There was the vampire, a white old man with creepy fungus-looking fingernails and a face as wrinkled as an expired raisin. He was wearing a super-metrosexual cape. He had left the dead body of a woman in the corner of his creeptastic dungeon. He was chillin’ with some flesh-colored bats who were probably his only friends.

How dare this girl? I am not old! I am not creepy! I am not a murderer! Most importantly, I would never wear a cape. Some kids I competed against in high school quiz bowl used to wear capes instead of varsity jackets, and they were complete weirdos. Furthermore, I don’t sit around in some cold dungeon sucking blood and talking to bats, plotting to lure women down there. I have a brother and a family and a life! Okay, so I still have to plot to lure women. But I don’t drink their blood!

Suddenly, the frustration of a week of accumulated insults caught up with me big time. I hated this blond stranger, hated her with a passion. I hated her blond hair. I hated her dumb creepy book. I hated the assumptions she made about other people based on their unusual medical conditions and their pale skin. I hated her dumb shoes and her dumb clothes. I hated her stupid necklace that said “best friends” on it and was shaped like half a heart. I hated whomever had the other half, because they were a dumbass for being this girl’s friend.

“You know what?” I stormed at her, standing up violently (then falling into the seat in front of me because the train lurched. But I maintained my anger throughout). “If I’m so creepy, if I’m so
scary
, if I’m a
vampire
,” I said pretty loudly, “then why did you sit next to me?”

“No,” the girl interrupted. “You don’t understand….”

“I do understand,” I said. I squeezed past her, getting awkwardly stuck on her knees, but shoving my way through. Then I stood in the aisle of the train.

“I understand that you’re obnoxious,” I told her. “And that you could have sat next to that possibly homeless man.”

The possibly homeless man across the aisle looked up at me.

“Or that guy who’s awkwardly checking out that girl’s boobs,” I continued.

That guy, sitting in the third seat of the train car, quickly looked back to his
New York Times
, which was upside down. That girl, across the aisle from him, buttoned her jacket.

“But you didn’t!” I told Blondie. “You sat next to me.”

“You don’t understand,” the blond girl pleaded. “I really
like
vamp—”

“I’m leaving!” I told her. “This is my stop!”

I stood there, holding on to the pole, trying to not look back at the blond girl. Or at that guy who I’d called out for looking down that girl’s shirt. Or at that businessman who was pissed that I wasn’t blind—no way was I giving back those two dollars. And then I realized that storming out of the train was becoming kind of anticlimactic because there were about three minutes of agonizing silence left before the train finally stopped and the doors opened at Fordham.

chapter 4

I think my twin brother, Luke, is a superhero. He can sprint like a cheetah. He can do the hundred-yard dash in ten seconds. He can catch something, throw something, and swat at a fly all at the same time. He can do no-look passes to the shooting guards on the basketball court. Actually, he can pass to
himself
on the basketball court. He has the reflexes of a Marvel comic character and the speed of a hermaphrodite Olympian.

Our pediatrician thinks Luke has a hyperactivity disorder. Luke can’t read more than one chapter of a book at a time. He can’t finish standardized tests. He walked out on the PSAT last year and went to see an action movie instead. Then he walked out on the movie. Luke can’t eat dinner without standing up and running around the table. He doesn’t do great in school, and he makes some people impatient. During our childhood, three elementary school teachers, a zookeeper, and a museum guide at the World’s Largest Ball of Paint all quit their jobs and not by coincidence. (My mother was sad when that zookeeper left the children’s zoo. He was gonna give her advice he’d learned from raising baby baboons.)

In eighth grade, increasingly concerned about Luke’s bad grades, my parents put Luke on a drug for ADHD. Three months into taking it, Luke collapsed midcourt during a CYO basketball game. I’ve never seen so many rosaries pulled out of so many purses so fast.

An ambulance rushed him to the hospital. The medicine had sped up his heartbeat, and there was so much blood rushing around his body that he got dizzy and passed out.

My mother has been neurotic about our health since she was knocking on her stomach and yelling “Are you dead in there?” at our nine-week-old fetal selves. So you can guess how much she freaked out about Luke and the ambulance. She never let him take that ADHD medicine again. In fact, she never let him take a Flintstones vitamin.

So how did she react when the weaker of her offspring arrived at the gate of Fordham Preparatory School wrapped in bandages?

“You look horrible!” my mother wailed.

“Hello to you, too,” I told her.

“What’s wrong with you?” my father asked eagerly.

I’m a pale and creepy virgin? Nope, not what he was asking.

“It’s an allergic reaction,” I reassured them. “It’s temporary.”

I was super thrilled when I saw that it was a pretty girl who was ripping the game tickets at the Fordham gate, seeing as I was wearing my best James Bond formalwear: my swim trunks, a t-shirt that showed off my man-nipples, and a Y2K supply of Ace bandages.

“Go Rams!” the ticket girl told me, making an admirable effort to focus on school spirit and not my arms.

She was a brunette, too. Brunettes are my favorite. Eff my lack of luck. Not only did I look like a freak, but when I sat down in the bleachers, I was one of the few kids with parents instead of friends. I was sandwiched between my dad, who was wearing a new Fordham Prep hat (my dad doesn’t wear flat-brimmed hats because he’s a rap star. He wears them in a very uncool way), and my mother, who kept accidentally smacking me in the face as she pointed to Luke on the field.

“Look, he’s drinking water!” she’d say. “Look, he’s lacing up his shoes! Look, he just spit! Oh, Luke”—my mother shook her head at her son from fifteen rows up—“that’s not very polite.”

My parents and I first spotted him with a cluster of other white-padded guys under a floodlight. Luke was playfully hopping from foot to foot. Other players were doing various homoerotic things that belong in the locker room: slapping each other’s asses, giggling over secret handshakes, etc. One leaned over to slap Luke’s ass, and my mother was proud.

“Look!” my mother said happily. “He already has friends.”

As the announcer introduced the other team, Holy Cross, I ignored the field and looked around the bleachers instead. How were there so many girls here? Fordham was an all-boys school. But girls were everywhere. There were girls in groups, leaning in toward one another to share secrets beneath wide eyes. There were girls in groups with boys, projecting their laughter into the face of the right boy, pitching their voices higher than the other girls, seeking attention. There were girls who really liked football, who climbed down the bleachers to sink their flip-flops into the mud by the fence and press themselves closer to the action. These girls were watching boys like my brother.

And Luke was something to watch. Fordham had decided on a running game that night. I think they wanted to show off their new Indiana running back. After all, the whole world revolves around Luke. When he was introduced at his new school, there were whistles and shouts like the
High School Musical
cast was on a mall tour.

Luke really was great, though. Dodging between defenders’ shoulder pads, making sharp cuts and kicking up field dirt with his cleats, finding the open space and dashing into it just before it shut, letting the green-uniformed chests collapse into a pile behind him. I’d seen all of this before—Luke’s dodging, darting, sprinting, and slipping-between. Luke had used these same tactics as a child to escape from my mother in crowded shopping malls and airports. You’d think my mother would have become Jerome Bettis trying to keep up with her son. Actually, she gave up most of the time. Then she’d send me after him. I’d usually find a sleeker route, along the wall, avoiding the people and obstacles I knew I couldn’t hurdle or intimidate. I would catch up to Luke using speed alone, not skill. This lack of coordination explained how I’d ended up headfirst in a bin of peppers—and why only one of us was a football player.

In the first half, Luke completed three touchdowns. The other team, Holy Cross, was pretty good, though, and they were only a touchdown behind. Their defense geared up in the second half; they had two guys key in on Luke for most of the plays—a short-and-tall doofy pair who resembled Crabbe and Goyle from the
Harry Potter
movies. On the last play, though, Luke had a really showy run. He hurdled like a Kentucky Derby horse and won out in the end with pure chest-heaving speed. Then he did a victory dance that made me embarrassed to be his brother.

BOOK: Bloodthirsty
6.12Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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